I Know How You Can Improve Your Grit

Katy Montgomery

Katy currently serves as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD where she manages career services professionals across three campuses: Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau, and Singapore. Katy previously served as the Associate Dean for Student Development at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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Those who know me and especially those who work with me know that “grit” is one of my favorite topics of discussion. In fact, 20 years ago I wrote one of my law school application essays on what I called “fire in the belly” and what Angela Duckworth later defined as grit. I knew it existed, I was drawn to others that had it, and I enjoyed being part of a culture that championed it. Thanks to Angela Duckworth and her brilliance, I can now officially define it: “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she gives clear examples of grit, discusses how grit can be learned (you don’t have to be born with it), and how to create a culture of grit. If you are new to the concept of grit, a great starting point is Duckworth’s Grit Scale.

I have already recommended this book to friends and colleagues and encourage you to read the book for yourself, but here are some pieces of advice that you can start implementing today to improve your grit.

  • How you see your work is more important than your title. Those that have a “calling” rather than a “job” or “career” tend to be grittier. For example, a janitor at a university can see his job as mopping the floors or he can see his calling as keeping the building clean so students aren’t distracted from their studies and professors aren’t distracted from their research. Having a calling induces more passion and perseverance.
  • Adopt a growth mindset. This is the opposite of a fixed mindset (interpreting setbacks as evidence that you don’t have the right stuff). Adopting a growth mindset can be as easy as changing your language: “Well, at least I tried.” vs. “That didn’t work. Let’s review my approach and think about what might work better.”
  • View failure as a “cue to try harder.” Rather than seeing failure as a lack of success, viewing failure as being able to survive and learn from mistakes can increase your perseverance. Understanding that failure is part of the process and not the end of the world can increase your grittiness.
  • Surround yourself with gritty people. Think about it. If you are surrounded by people who give up, you are going to have a different experience than being surrounded by people who are willing to put in the hard work. We tend to follow along with the crowd—”the human drive to fit in” can do wonders for improving your grit.
  • Find a gritty person and model yourself after him/her. Know someone who doesn’t give up, is willing to put in the hard work, and is always striving to evolve? Observe that person and model your behavior accordingly.

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